Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is one of the few places in the world where you can make your own exploration, perhaps chart a new path among roads, trails and highways.
Lying among some of the highest peaks in the Sierra Nevada mountains, the granite tops rise to over 13 thousand feet above perfect alpine meadows and amazing evergreen forest lands.
It snows here into late spring and fills the literally hundreds of lakes and creeks that sweep through the valleys.
At the heart of Yosemite is a breathtaking 3000 foot cliff that glows white in the sunlight, towering over the grassy knolls and forests, an array of grandeur that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
At one time all of Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Nevadas as well were covered completely in glacial ice formations. As they melted and scraped away at the land they carved out what is Now Yosemite Valley.
Once all the ice was melted it formed lakes and creeks that deposited sediment and vegetation which forms the flat grassy meadows we see today. Yosemite National Park, part of the wilderness areas of the United States is a travel destination that you should make a point to see.
Bridalveil Fall This filmy fall of 620 feet (often diverted as much as 20 feet one way or the other by the breeze) is the first view of Yosemite Valley for those who arrive via the Wawona Road. Native Americans called the fall Pohono, meaning “spirit of the puffing wind.” A 1/4 mile trail leads from the parking lot off Wawona Road to the base of the falls.
El Capitan Rising 3,593 feet above the valley, El Capitan is the largest exposed granite monolith in the world and is almost twice the height of the Rock of Gibraltar.
Glacier Point Glacier Point yields what may be the most spectacular vistas of the valley and the High Sierra (especially at sunset) that you can get without hiking. The Glacier Point Road leaves Wawona Road (Highway 41) about 23 miles southwest of the valley; then it’s a 16 mile drive, with fine views into higher country.
From the parking area, walk a few hundred yards and you’ll be able to see Nevada, Vernal and Yosemite falls as well as Half Dome and other peaks. You can hike to the valley floor (3,214 feet below) via the Panorama or Four Mile trails.
Half Dome The astounding Half Dome rises 4,733 feet from the valley floor to a height 8,842 feet above sea level. The west side of the dome is fractured vertically and cut away forming a 2,000 foot cliff.
Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and Tuolemne Meadows The Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which supplies water and hydroelectric power to San Francisco, is about 40 miles from Yosemite Valley. Legend has it, that the naturalist John Muir died of heartbreak when this valley was dammed and flooded beneath 300 feet of water in 1913.
Tioga Road (Highway 120) stays open until the first big snow of the year, usually about mid-October. The road is the scenic route to Tuolumne Meadows, the largest sub alpine meadow system in the Sierra and the trailhead for many backpack trips into the High Sierra 55 miles from Yosemite Valley.
John Muir Trail The highly strenuous 16 3/4 mile round-trip John Muir Trail (also incorporating the Mist Trail), leads from Yosemite Valley to the top of Half Dome. Allow 10-12 hours for this hike; start early in the morning and beware of afternoon thunderstorms.
Mariposa Grove of Big Trees Yosemite’s largest grove of giant sequoias can be visited on foot (trails all lead uphill) or, during the summer, on one-hour tram rides. The Grizzly Giant, the oldest tree here, is estimated to be 2,700 years old. If the road to the grove is closed (which happens when Yosemite is crowded) park your car in Wawona and take the free shuttle; passengers are picked up near the gas station. The access road to the grove may also be closed by snow for extended periods from November to mid-May. You can still usually walk, snowshoe, or ski in.
Nevada Fall Nevada Fall (594 feet) is the first major fall as the Merced River plunges out of the high country toward the eastern end of Yosemite Valley. A strenuous 2-mile section of the Mist Trail leads from Vernal Fall to the top of Nevada Fall. Allow six to eight hours for the full 7 mile round-trip hike.
Ribbon Fall At 1,612 feet, Ribbon Fall is the highest single fall in North America. It is also the first waterfall in the valley to dry up; the rainwater and melted snow that create the slender fall evaporate quickly at this height.
Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias This grove is located near the junction of Big Oak Flat Road and Tioga Road. See the Dead Giant, one of the two remaining trees in Yosemite, which you can walk through. The six mile hiking trail through the grove is especially scenic in the fall and becomes a ski run in the winter.
Vernal Fall Fern-covered black rocks frame Vernal Fall (317 feet) and rainbows dance in the spray at its base. The hike on a paved trail from the Happy Isles Nature Center to the bridge at the base of Vernal Fall is only moderately strenuous and less than 1 mile long. It’s another steep (and often wet) 3/4 mile up the mist Trail (which is open only from late spring to early fall) to the top of Vernal Fall. Allow two to four hours for the 3 mile round-trip hike.
Wawona Tunnel View At the east end of the Wawona Tunnel see the view encompassing the Yosemite Valley including El Capitan, Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, Cathedral Rocks and Bridalveil Fall.
Yosemite Falls Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in North America and the fifth highest in the world. The upper fall (1,430 feet), the middle cascades (675 feet) and the lower fall (320 feet) combine for a total of 2,425 feet and, when viewed from the valley, appear as a single waterfall. A 1/4 mile trail leads from the parking lot to the base of the falls. The Upper Yosemite Fall Trail, a strenuous 3 1/2 mile climb rising 2,700 feet, takes you above the top of the falls. It starts at Sunnyside Campground.